According to the American Diabetes Association, roughly 21 million Americans suffer from diabetes. Of that 21 million, nearly  8.1 million go undiagnosed. While many people have the misconception that diabetes only affects older people, young children and adults also live with this chronic illness; that includes college students.

Having diabetes can seem a bit overwhelming due to the fact that many college students do not have to deal with the everyday inconveniences of this chronic illness. Struggling with diabetes can be hard, but Grand Valley students have access to resources and support that aims to make their college lives a little easier. 

Here are 5 tips for dealing with diabetes at Grand Valley State University.  

1. Understanding diabetes

coffee, beer
Micaela Petrucci

Type 1 

Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the body can no longer produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is responsible for allowing the body to use sugar, or glucose, as energy. This form of diabetes is believed to be genetic, affecting many people during their early childhood, but Type 1 is not discriminatory and can affect anybody at any time.  

Type 2 

Type 2 diabetes is more commonly known for slowing down the insulin-producing process. Many people can develop Type 2 by the constant wear and tear of their pancreas. This means that the body can no longer use insulin properly, resulting in abnormal glucose levels. 

2. Water, water, water.

coffee, tea, beer, milk, espresso
Bethany Garcia

If you just got out of that 6:00 - 9:00 PM and the dizziness begins to hit you, Grand Valley offers countless filtered water fountains all throughout campus. Some even have separate filtered sprouts to fill up your personal water bottle. When you realize you don't have any extra change to buy some bottled water, GVSU is there to help.

The real key to living with diabetes is maintaining your blood sugar levels. To get rid of glucose, the kidneys attempt to pass it as urine, and in order to urinate, you need water. Generally, after about 2 hours of eating, somebody with diabetes strives to stay below 180 mg/dl.  

After a long amount of time without food, diabetics are recommended to keep their levels between 80 and 130 mg/dl. If these glucose levels go above or below these numbers, dietetics risk uncontrollable shaking, fatigue, and even fainting spells.

3. Fresh Food Company provides nutritional information for their food

beer, coffee, tea, pizza
Bethany Garcia

Don't let campus food stop you from eating what you love. While many people think diabetics cannot eat certain foods, they can actually eat whatever they like. Grand Valley provides some great meal options for diabetics who are looking for some tasty food choices.

Fresh Food Co. provides nutritional information above the serving stations for all their food options, so measuring your intake of carbohydrates is simple and easy. You no longer have to wonder how many carbs you are consuming, and you'll be able to feel comfortable knowing exactly what you are putting in your body.

#SpoonTip: Grand Valley provides an online meal calculator that can add nutritional information from GVSU campus dining menus.

4. Croutons and P.O.D are great places to score some healthy and beneficial meals

salad, vegetable, lettuce, cucumber
Bethany Garcia

You don't have to feel excluded when your friends want to grab Panda Express from Kirkof. You can just head right downstairs to grab yourself a meal from Croutons, which is a deliciously diverse salad bar. 

Now, if you hate salads, Panda Express' white rice and orange chicken can be an option. Just make sure you check out that nutrition calculator, so you can enjoy all the walnut shrimp you want. 

Having Panda Express or even Croutons for lunch sounds pretty tasty, but what happens when you find yourself with low glucose levels and needing an immediate fix? 

Maintaining sugar levels can be difficult, and sometimes you need a little extra help. With only fifteen minutes between your class, the P.O.D, the campus convenience store, can be a great place to pick up some apple juice or orange juice; a perfect drink to spike those sugar levels for on the go.

#SpoonTip: If you are looking for more health conscious on-the- go snacks, Grand Valley provides H.U.M.A.N (Helping Unite Man and Nutrition) vending machines. They offer healthier alternatives to the traditional vending machine snacks. These machines are located in Kistler, Niemeyer (East/West) and Mackinac on the Allendale campus. 

5. You can seek support

Micaela Petrucci

You no longer have to feel alone. Grand Valley has its own College Diabetes Network Chapter (CDN) that welcomes Type 1 diabetic students wishing to engage with others who also suffer from diabetes. 

Erica Farr (In the center of the first row ), the President of the CDN chapter at GVSU said, "College can be stressful and hard, but with people who understand those 3:00 AM lows, life can be that much easier." Blood sugar levels are hard to manage, but with people that understand the struggle, it makes it a little simpler. 

Also, the Disability Support Resources office at GVSU also provides students with special accommodations. If you need water or snacks during a long test or need assistance with housing, you've got a friend in the Disability Support Resources.

Diabetes does not define you, it is simply something you have. Living with a chronic illness can be scary, but Grand Valley State is here for support and strives to give every student a unique, equal, and inclusive college experience.